Sunday, January 31, 2010

Herb-Crusted Flathead With Tomato and Avocado Salsa

I am forever surprised by the number of people who won't eat fish or seafood. For some it is not a choice. My brother developed a crustacean allergy, possibly after spending too many summers using prawns as bait for fishing, and now cannot eat anything with even a mere taint of seafood. Food prepared on a chopping board that was previously used with prawns is enough to send him to the emergency department at hospital. So people with an allergy, I understand.

But what about the rest of you? I have had adults (or at least they appeared to be adults) tell me that they don't eat fish because they had it once when they were a child and didn't like it. Or maybe their mother used to cook it, but only ever heavily coated in a stodgy batter, and so it no longer appeals to them. Others have told me that they don't cook fish at home (which means their kids mostly don't eat fish) because they are worried it will make their house smell. To all of you, I say it is time to have another shot at making fish for dinner. The only thing that will make your house smell is failing to clean up after yourselves.

This recipe is fast and delicious, and a great one to try on the kids. If your kids are still at the stage where even the smallest piece of green means that they won't touch it, by all means skip the herbs, the zest and the salsa. The simple combination of crispy crumbs, and tender white fish is a winner with even small fussy eaters. For the adults at the table, include the herbs and lemon - they really lift the flavour of the fish. If you have never used them, fresh breadcrumbs are larger and fluffier than the boxed crumbs. Make them every time you have a leftover chunk of good bread, by cutting off the crusts and whizzing the remains in a food processor. They can be stored in the freezer for a month or two, so they are handy every time you want to make this recipe, and I promise you will want to make it again.

This is the last of the recipes I have tried from Delicious Dec 09 / Jan 10 for my We Made It challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder. In February, we will be looking to the Feb / Mar 10 issue of Donna Hay.

Herb Crusted Flathead With Tomato and Avocado Salsa

adapted from Delicious Dec 09 / Jan 10
Serves 4

8 x 100g flathead fillets
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tbs chopped thyme
1 tbs chopped parsley
30g unsalted butter melted
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tomatoes. chopped
2 avocados, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed

Put fish on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Combine breadcrumbs, herbs, zest and butter. Add seasoning to taste. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over each fish fillet. Drizzle with 1 tbl olive oil. Grill under medium heat for 4-5 minutes until fish is cooked and crust is golden. (NB If your griller is very hot, make sure you put the tray on a low shelf and keep an eye on the crumbs to make sure that they don't catch). For salsa, combine remaining tomato, avocado, garlic, lemon juice, remaining oil and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Serve fish with salsa.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Stuffed Kitchen plus Chilled Pea Soup With Mint Sorbet

Yesterday, I was reading Casual Kitchen, a cooking blog that does a great job of distilling a lot of other cooking blogs, as well as always providing interesting food for thought. Daniel was talking about what a relief it was to be in a kitchen that was 70-80% packed for a move because he did not have to contemplate which coffee mugs or wine glasses to use as all but the last two had been packed. The basics were to hand, but none of the peripheral stuff, which was inspiring him to cook more not less. Daniel challenged his readers to contemplate what could they get rid of and not miss.

So, would I be better off getting rid of 70% of my kitchen equipment? What do I have that I could get rid of and not miss? Certainly I have a lot of platters - we got married in the Year of the Platter - and I could probably get rid of half of them, and still have plenty, but I won't. Wear and tear is slowly taking its toll, and I suspect this cupboard will get emptied by natural attrition. Appliances? I use all my appliances regularly (toaster, blender, food processor, stick blender, toasted sandwich maker, and the hero, my Kitchenaid stand mixer), so nothing to ditch there. In another cupboard, I have a couple of salad bowls, about 10 mixing bowls of different sizes (some of which also double up as heat proof bowls for melting chocolate), about half a dozen baking dishes, a couple of souffle bowls (that also get used for salads, and serving from time to time) and a salad spinner. They all work hard for me all year.

Onto the less used items: I have two large colanders - and yes, I could probably get by with one - plus three tiny colanders that I use for jobs like rinsing salted capers, but are by no means essential. I have a mortar and pestle, that gets used maybe three or four times a year. More embarrassingly, I have two full drawers of baking equipment: a cupcake tin, a mini muffin tin, a friand tin, a madeleine silicone sheet, two springform tins, six cake tins, a swag of cookie cutters and a cookie press, a couple of square tins for brownies or slices, oven trays, a couple of loaf tins, a bundt tin and a mini-bundt tin. A lot of this was given to me, or came from my grandmothers' kitchen when she was packing up her house, and it all gets used, at least a few times a year. My least favourite drawer is the plasticware, which is in a symbiotic relationship with my freezer - when the freezer is full, the plastics drawer is half empty, when the freezer is empty, the plastics drawer won't shut. And the plastic drink bottles appear to be breeding with the takeaway box lids. I keep throwing them out and more and more turn up.

The entertaining-related items are probably the ones that don't really earn their living in my kitchen: the "good" dinner plates, the cake stand, the ham stand, the butter curler (inherited from my grandmother), a cherry pipper, tea cups, dessert forks. In a world, where there are people who don't know where their next meal will come from, it does seem wrong and indulgent to have so much, and I feel awkward about it now I am looking at it all. But would I ditch any of them? The simple answer is, not as long as I have the cupboards to hold them. I love to entertain and it really makes me happy to use the things that have come to me from other people, other times, other places. I feel a strong sense of continuity when I hold them. I also feel that the way you make a happy house is to fill it up with memories. If a fire took them from me, I probably would not replace any of these things, but while I have them, they are helping me build those memories. Sorry Daniel, but I don't agree. Two coffee cups just wouldn't do it for me.

Now onto some food for the very sticky weather we are having. Cold pea soup is a favourite of mine, and I already have one chilled pea soup on the blog. This recipe popped out at me from the Dec 90 / Jan 10 issue of Delicious (part of my We Made It Challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder), and I wanted to try it because of the mint gelato. The soup recipe is very plain - peas, potato, onion, lettuce and stock - so make sure you use really good (preferably homemade) stock, or else your soup won't taste as good as it should. The mint gelato is delicious, and when I make it again, I will make it in a deeper plastic box, as the large and shallow box the recipe called for meant it was impossible to get pretty balls of gelato. The taste was great, regardless of how shambolic my gelato balls looked. And make sure you do make the gelato: the soup without it is pretty bland, but together, they are light and refreshing, and completely perfect for this muggy weather.

Green Pea Soup with Mint Gelato
from Delicious, Dec 09 / Jan 10

Mint Gelato:
1/4 cup castor sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tsp grated lemon zest plus 1 tbsp lemon juice (or a little more)
1 cup plus 2 tbls slivered fresh mint plus extra leaves to garnish (forgot those for the photo!)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 egg white

Put sugar, water, lemon zest, juice and mint in a saucepan over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Increase heat to medium, and simmer for 2 mins. Cool syrup and strain, pushing down on solids to extract as much flavour as possible. Stir cooled mint syrup into mascarpone. Freeze in a plastic box (deep enough for you to use a melon baller to scoop the gelato) for at least 2 hours. Place frozen mixture in a food processor with egg white, and extra mint. Puree and refreeze for at least four hours.

2 cups of green peas (frozen is fine),
1 large peeled potato, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup shredded lettuce (iceberg)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup thickened cream

Combine potato, onion, lettuce and stock in pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add peas and simmer for 2 more mins. Puree soup in a blender until smooth. Add cream and season to taste. Chill for at least a couple of hours. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with a small scoop of gelato.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baked Figs and Ricotta for Brunch

Figs are in season at the moment, and since the season seems to last for exactly ten minutes, you need to be quick to take advantage of it. I promise, I'll understand if you need to run to the shops now, just don't miss out. Last week, a couple of girlfriends were coming over for brunch, and I knew that I wanted to do something with figs. In the back of my mind, I remembered reading somewhere about a baked ricotta and fig dish. Google to the rescue, and I found this spectacularly easy recipe on the Guardian website from Yotam Ottolenghi.
While the name is not very familiar in Australia, Ottolenghi has been building a devoted following in the UK for several years. He has several food shops in London, and now a cookbook available in Australia. A friend who lived in London sent me the menu and some pictures from Ottolenghi a couple of years ago. Unlike many food stores, the shop is as beautiful as a painting, with riots of colour and texture coming from the abundant food. I think that is one of the most important things to have in a food shop - or for cooking generally - a sense of generosity and abundance. (A deli I know recently went out of business, which was not surprising given their counter displayed little more than a few slices of ham and a few slices of salmon on saucers under plastic. Incredibly depressing.) Even better when the generosity and abundance is matched with creativity and innovation. Now if only I had a ticket to London....
This dish was incredibly easy to make, and made for a really delicious and stress-free brunch. I served it with some toasted Turkish bread. The saltiness of the cheese plays off the musky fruit - I think figs and cheese belong together - with the olive oil and honey ratcheting it up even further. Incidentally, I skipped the lavender honey and used plain honey as I did not think the lavender flavour would sit well with the salmon that I was also serving.
Baked ricotta with figs and lavender honey
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi on

500g good quality ricotta
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped rosemary, plus extra sprigs for garnish
4 fresh figs, cut into quarters or six
3 tbsp lavender honey, or less if figs are very sweet (I used plain honey)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the ricotta in the centre of a clean tea towel, squeeze to get rid of some of the liquid, then transfer the cheese to a bowl, season and mix well. Lightly oil four individual ramekins or one round ovenproof dish about 15cm in diameter. Spread the ricotta inside and level with a palette knife or a spoon - the cheese should come about 2.5cm up the sides.

Drizzle half the olive oil over the cheese, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and lay a small rosemary sprig on top. Bake for about 20 minutes for individual ramekins, 28 minutes for a large dish, then remove from the oven, top with the figs, drizzle over half the honey and bake again for eight minutes longer. At this point the figs should be semi-cooked but retain their shape.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool down slightly. You can serve the cheese slightly warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with remaining honey and oil.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Melon Salad With Ginger Syrup

Today is Australia Day, which almost officially marks the end of the nation's holidays. Like the French, who effectively shut down for August, much of Australia has been on leave for the month between Christmas and Australia Day. Tomorrow, the offices will be full, and some schools will open their doors for the new year, with the rest to follow on Thursday. It feels like the new year starts on January 27th, with a nation turning over new leaves, starting new pages, and so, at least in my mind, now is the time for resolutions.

I love the process of making resolutions and the notion that a new year will bring clean starts and new opportunities, and possibly a shinier, better me. When I was 21 I gave up smoking as a New Year resolution, and stuck to it, so I really value the opportunity that fresh starts offer. The difference now is that I am old enough to know that no good will come from attempting a resolution from January 1, when I still have more than three weeks of holidays, and its favourite sins of sloth and greed, to get through. So from tomorrow, my resolutions for the year ahead include:
- finish the year slimmer and fitter than I started it (a perennial for everyone, isn't it?)
- blog three times a week (maybe a stretch target of four times per week?)
- work on my photography (you must all be glad to hear that)
- start a gratitude journal (more on this later)
- get a full medical check up (in case you're worried, nothing is wrong, I just know that once you are in your 40s you are meant to do these things from time to time)
- throw out less food. I tried to do that this year, but could certainly get a lot better at making use of the leftovers in our fridge.
- cook more vegetarian meals for the family.
- start a herb garden.
- and the big scary one: contemplate the future and what I should be doing in it.
I promise to let you know how I go.....

This week, still being in my slothful holiday mode, I made this cool and refreshing fruit salad. The recipe is one I clipped a long time ago (it is in Vol 1 of my recipe clippings), and I know it came from a Martha Stewart magazine because of the typeface, but unfortunately I did not note the date. I served it for brunch, but it could just as easily be a dessert, or even a lunch, served with some ham. The recipe calls for a canary melon, but they are rarely seen here, so I just skipped that. Martha also suggests tossing through the zest of 2 oranges, but I forgot to do that (I mentioned the sloth already, didn't I?) The end result is light and fresh and tasty, and definitely one of my favourite fruit salads.

Do you have a favourite fruit salad?

Melon With Orange Ginger Syrup

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (or 1 cup unsweetened orange juice), plus zest of two oranges 1 cup sugar (I reduced this to 3/4 of a cup) 1-2cms fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Cointreau (I only used 1 tbl - depends how much you like Cointreau!)
1 small honeydew melon, cut in half, seeded
1 small canary melon, cut in half, seeded (I couldn't find this so I skipped it)
1 rock melon, cut in half, seeded Mint sprigs, for garnish

Place the orange juice, sugar, and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and syrup has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; strain syrup into a clean bowl; add the Cointreau; stir to combine. Put into the fridge, until syrup is cold. Using different sizes of melon ballers, cut balls from the melons. Place balls in a medium bowl; add the cold syrup, and zest if using. Toss to combine.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Buttermilk Fried Chicken - For Kids or Kids At Heart

Confession time: I do not like cooking for other people's children. When you are cooking for adults you get to try out different flavours, a wide variety of ingredients, some heat, some spice - in other words it is interesting cooking. Cooking for other people's kids is (mostly) a disappointing experience. It doesn't matter how good your sauce is, or that your homemade pizza dough is amazing or that your teriyaki salmon has your kids licking their dishes. Other people's kids mostly want to eat food that tastes the same at your house as it does at their home, and I expect my kids are the same at other people's houses. If your food is different from their normal meals, they will usually cross their arms and say "I'm not hungry" even when you know they could eat the leg off the table. Which means that most of the time (there are some key exceptions) when we entertain other people's kids, they get sausages in bread for dinner. Sausages + bread = sausages + bread. Every kid will eat it happily because it tastes the same wherever you are. And this approach works extremely well until you get to summer. In summer, when you are entertaining a lot more frequently, and in family groups, suddenly you need to add a bit of choice into the menu. If for no other reason than to stop your own kids from being bored to tears with the same dinner over and over.

Enter: Fried Chicken. This has become my new menu item for kids. If my first attempt was anything to go by, the small fry loved it, and the adults mopped up the leftovers. The chicken is marinated in buttermilk to tenderize the flesh, then battered and shallow-fried briefly before cooking in the oven. This is good in two ways:
- a nice battered exterior, without the chicken spending an extended period cooking in oil
- you can get it half-cooked ahead of time, and just finish it off in the 15 mins before dinner. Perfect for when you are entertaining another tribe.
This recipe comes from Jill Dupleix in Delicious Dec 09 / Jan 10. I have been working my way through this issue of Delicious as part of the "We Made It" challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder. Jill Dupleix is a writer I follow - she has a lovely style, and her cooking is definitely at the less fiddly end of the spectrum. I have a couple of her cookbooks and I love her Delicious and SMH columns. In fact one of my favourite cooking quotes is from her: "I love cooking, but not while I could be eating and drinking." On that note here's to a great Australia Day weekend.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken
adapted from Jill Dupleix in Delicious Dec 2009 / Jan 2010
8 chicken legs (look for kid sized ones; some are big enough to be used in combat)
1 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Cover the chicken with the buttermilk and refrigerate for at least 1 hr, or ideally overnight. Preheat oven to 200C.
Mix flour with paprika and some salt and a little pepper in a medium bowl. Dredge each leg through the flour until it is well-coated.
Heat 1cm oil over medium high heat . Cook the chicken in batches until it is well-browned on both sides. Do not attempt to cook it through. Put chicken on a baking tray lined with baking paper to sop the batter sticking to the tray. Bake for 15 mins, or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool long enough so that little fingers don't get burnt, then serve. I is even delicious at room temperature.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Surprising Discovery and Chocolate Macadamia Shortbread

Right now I am feeling pretty stupid. For the last two or three months, I have been receiving regular comments on my blog in Chinese. As any blogger will tell you, receiving comments is one of the great things about blogging. It is incredibly gratifying when people find what you write interesting enough to give you some feedback. So I was flattered and would think to myself how nice it is that someone overseas is reading my blog, and be amazed yet again at how the Internet is making the world a smaller and smaller place. Lots of warm feelings....

And then today, I received a lengthy comment in Chinese and started to wonder what on earth my correspondent could be saying. Most comments that I receive run about a sentence or two, while this one appeared to be a lengthy paragraph. I decided to send it on to my clever sister-in-law who can read Chinese characters, who immediately responded "It's a list of adult short films, with a short description of each film. DELETE! DELETE!" So, if you can read Chinese, and thought that I was starting to act as a middleman peddling exotic services, rest assured that I will be sticking to the core business of cooking from here on. Also understand that I have now activated comment moderation, so I will be able to bin the adult services before they get posted on my blog. Apologies to anyone who has been offended in the last month or two. And here I was thinking they must be keen on mango recipes......

Now, onto something sweeter. This shortbread recipe appeared in this month's Delicious in Belinda Jeffrey's column. I really rate Belinda Jeffrey's recipes as scrumptious and achievable. I have two of her cookbooks ("100 Favourite Recipes" and "Tried and True Recipes") and have made so many brilliant things from them, that if I posted all of them I would be reproducing virtually half of each book. I noticed that one of them has recently been reprinted so if you want a recommendation for a cookbook you will keep turning to, I suggest you take a look. Or you can just accumulate her columns from Delicious!

This shortbread was made as a thank you present for a neighbour, who later phoned and asked for the recipe - always a good sign. It came out a little moister than I expected despite my decision to leave it in the oven for an additional ten or fifteen minutes. I think this may have been because it was so hot here when I was making them that my butter was half melted, instead of the firm butter envisioned by Belinda. So the final biscuit, in texture, was closer to a slice than to shortbread. But it was completely scrumptious - just the thing for me to nibble on over a cup of tea as I contemplate how daft I can be at times.

I have been cooking from Delicious all month with Melinda from Melbourne Larder in a challenge to make use of our food magazines. If you would like to join us, drop either one of us a line. Oh, and watch out for any unintelligible comments...

Chocolate Macadamia Shortbread Biscuits
from Delicious Dec 09 / Jan 10

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup fine semolina
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup chopped roasted macadamias
60g chopped dark chocolate
300g unsalted butter at room temperature, chopped
180g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease and line the base and sides of a 18 x 28 cm lamington pan, leaving a 3cm overhang on all sides. Place the flour, semolina, baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl and stir well to combine. Stir in macadamias and chocolate.

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a food processor and whiz for 1-2 mins till creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir butter mixture into flour mixture until well combined. The dough should be quite thick and a bit hard to mix - mine wasn't because of the very soft butter. Press the dough into a pan and prick all over with a fork. Chill for 15 mins. Preheat over to 160C. Bake shortbread for 25-30 mins until firm to the touch. While it is still hot, use a knife to score the biscuits. Cool in the pan for 10 mins, then lift out the shortbread and cut into fingers. Keeps for 5 days.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mango-misu - Tiramisu's Tropical Cousin

We are deep in mango season at the moment. Prices are reasonable, the mangos are sweet, juicy and abundant, and we are all trying to enjoy them as much as possible before they disappear in another month or so. In fact, scarcely any of my shopping trolleys for the last month haven't contained at least one mango. In case you were wondering, that's me you can hear humming "mmmmmmangos". So you won't be surprised to hear that the cover of this month's Delicious sang to me like the worst kind of siren, an evil mango and cream toting siren.

The cover dessert was a tropical fruit take on the classic tiramisu: a mango-misu. And I have some questions: "Oh why evil publishing geniuses are the most deadent desserts saved for the cover? Is it so they can endlessly haunt you, in every supermarket, in every newsagent ??" I'm sure that lots of people found themselves, just like me, reduced to buying enormous volumes of mascarpone and cream and mangos because they just COULD NOT STOP thinking about this dessert. And I can report that it really was delicious, as well as extremely rich and filling. We had it with some old friends, and we all loved it, even if we were largely unable to move after having a slice. In fact, this was a good thing as it made it it easier for me to force leftovers on them before they could escape. (There was no way that I was going to allow them to leave without taking enough of the leftovers to use as a door stop. That much temptation cannot be left in this house. Never.) Incidentally, I can see myself making this for many summers to come - probably not more than once a summer, but as an indulgent treat on a hot night, it is hard to beat. Even better, it was easy peasy to do.

Melinda from Melbourne Larder and I are exploring the Dec/ Jan edition of Delicious, and trying to cook as much as possible from this volume of our underutilised food porn. If, like us, you have food magazines lying around that have migrated to become bed-time reading instead of cooking inspiration, grab Delicious this month and join in. Drop either one of us a line; we'd love to have you join our "We Made It" challenge.

adapted from Delicious magazine, Issue 89, Dec/Jan

500g mascarpone cheese
600ml thickened cream
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup Cointreau - I ran out of cointreau, so I topped up with some brandy
Juice of two oranges
300g savoiardi (sponge finger biscuits) - I used almost 500g of biscuits in a 25cm springform
3 mangoes, sliced 1cm thick

Line the base of a 22cm springform cake pan with plastic wrap or baking paper. Place the cheese, cream, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat until thick and well combined.

Combine the Cointreau and orange juice in a separate bowl. Dip half the sponge fingers into the juice, and create a layer in the base of the cake pan. Then, spread 1/3 of the cream mixture, top with 1/3 mango slices, and repeat the process. Top with remaining cream mixture and top with mango slices. Cover and chill overnight. To serve, remove the cake from the in and transfer to a platter.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Indonesian Ginger Chicken

All this week my mind has been in the far distant past, thinking about a week when it was hot and humid in Sydney, and I was waiting for the arrival of my first child. I can remember feeling so full of baby I could hardly move, or sleep or walk or even get myself a glass of water. I was probably a bit nervous about the impending birth and parenthood, but I wasn't scared. I was convinced it would all work out, which it did, eventually. And now, today, she turns 13.

Some moments stick with you forever. At the hospital, as I carried her along a corridor, I felt a tiny arm reach out and hold my arm, and I knew everything in my world had changed. A nurse told me that she was a very calm personality, and she was right. Then, I remember taking her to preschool (I thought she was so big), and then school (I thought she was so little), watching as she conquered the challenges around her. She learnt to read and to swim, and quickly became more adept on the computer than I will ever be. Before this year is out, she will be taller than me. And soon I will have memories of her teenage years to contemplate as well.

Any of you with small children are probably thinking that it will take years for you to get to where I am. Let me tell you, once they are sleeping through the night, it takes what feels like no time at all (I admit the not-sleeping-through bit felt like centuries). Partly this is because I don't feel any older or wiser now than I did when I first had kids - it is completely baffling to me that they are now so grown up. Possibly it is also because kids make you so very busy that there is hardly any time to watch the days float by. And I know that next year and the years after, I will be here again, amazed at the way time continues to roll past. Although maybe the teenage years will bring a return to he not-sleeping-through nights for me....... Happy birthday darling, and I wish you what I have always wished you - a life filled with happiness, love and laughter.

And now to some food. This Indonesian Ginger Chicken was this week's pick for Barefoot Bloggers. We eat a lot of different versons of honey-soy chicken in this house, so the flavours are among our favourites. I halved the recipe, and so used one chicken. It was easy to make and came together well, and we all enjoyed it. If I were to make it again, I would slightly decrease the cooking time, as I felt the chicken was slightly over done, just by 5 mins or so. Probably we will stick with this version of honey soy chicken which is even easier and just as tasty. Thanks Todd from A Cooking Dad for the choice - you gave us a lovely summer dinner we all enjoyed.

Indonesian Ginger Chicken
from Ina Garten

1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
1/2 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger root
2 chickens, quartered, with backs removed

Cook the honey, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger root in a small saucepan over low heat until the honey is melted. Arrange the chicken in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan, skin side down, and pour on the sauce. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 175C.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan, turn the chicken skin side up, and raise the temperature to 190C. Continue baking for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh and the sauce is a rich, dark brown.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chicken and / or Pork Satay

Today's recipe comes from a Daring Kitchen challenge to make your own Satay. Daring Kitchen is a spin off from the Daring Bakers, and each month a challenge appears for cooks around the world to tackle. Some challenges have really appealed to me, and some have been extremely challenging - all part of taking my cooking further.

As it turns out, this was a pretty easy challenge. I was happy to be making satay on a hot summer's day. It is also quite a good thing to do with your kids - as my younger daughter observes: everything is more fun when you eat it from sticks. We made the satay below with both pork and chicken thigh for a nice summer dinner. While we enjoyed this, I can honestly say that the taste is no better than the commercial marinade I use sometimes - so if you are feeling lazy, go to your local Asian supermarket and pick up a box of Prima Satay. If you don't have an Asian supermarket nearby, the recipe below makes a good satay. Incidentally, we all preferred the chicken as it is more tender than the pork.

Chicken and/or Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce
Satay Marinade
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbl ginger, chopped
2 tbl lemon juice
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbl vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil)
500g chicken thigh or pork (loin or shoulder cuts)

If you have a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the meat and blend until smooth. Otherwise, chop onions, garlic and ginger really fine then mix it all together in a medium to large bowl. Cut meat into 1 inch strips then mix with marinade, cover and chill in the fridge for 4 hours.

If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak in cold water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers. Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.
Grill until cooked through and the edges just start to char.

Peanut Sauce
3/4 cup coconut milk
4 Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1-2 dried red chilies, chopped

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well. Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often. All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Warm Baked Peach and Raspberry Cake: Win Some, Lose Some

I have been going backwards and forwards in my mind about this post, but in the interests of full disclosure, and to let you know that I get my share of disappointments in the kitchen, here goes:

After my rapturous excitement about the slow-cooked lamb shoulder, I thought that I would have a shot at the warm baked peach and raspberry cake, which featured in the same article in the Dec / Jan Delicious. It looked appropriately rustic for me to cook in an unfamiliar oven while we were on holidays. It was big enough to serve a crowd, and you served it up by scooping it out of a baking dish - the perfectly relaxed feeling I was after. Sadly, it was underwhelming, particularly when you consider that it took a dozen eggs, 500g raspberries, 8 peaches, 2 packs of butter and 5 cups of flour. In fact, I found it a bit dry and hard.

When I look for explanations of where I went wrong, I think that I just did not "get" the recipe. You make a softish batter, dot it with fruit, then top it with an egg and sugar mixture and then bake for two hours at 180C. The two hours was bothering me - cooking a cake for two hours seemed wrong and excessive. So because I was using several smaller baking dishes, I checked everything repeatedly from the 1 hour mark onwards, but, at least on the skewer test, it wasn't cooked until close to the 2 hour mark. The cakes were removed from the oven and left to sit because the oven needed to be used for cooking dinner, then the cakes were gently reheated at dinner time. The result was not worth the time and effort required, which makes me cranky.

If you made this cake and it worked, please drop me a note and let me know what I did wrong, or what you did right. If you are considering making this cake, I suggest you stick to the lamb in the same article, because I can promise you that is worth cooking.

Melinda from Melbourne Larder, and I are cooking our way through Delicious Dec/Jan issue at the moment, as part of our We Made It challenge. If you are inspired to join us, drop either one of us a note and join in - we'd love to have you.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The BEST Slow Cooked Lamb Ever

Please note: the title of this post is not an exaggeration or some form of puffery designed to entice you to try this recipe. While it may not be the prettiest, this is easily the best slow cooked lamb I have eaten, no joke. And I have proof: I cooked it for some extremely well-mannered friends, a few weeks ago. At the end of main course, my lovely polite friends hopped up to clear the table and were then caught in the kitchen eating leftover bits and pieces in their fingers straight from the baking dish. I don't want to alarm you, but there was juice dribbling down forearms, much smacking of lips and even more licking of fingers. Yes, I know people do that at home all the time, but when you catch dinner party guests throwing politesse to the wind, you know that you have cooked a winner.

And on this hot summer's day, I grant you that slow-cooked lamb is probably not your immediate thought as to what to have for dinner, but it is actually completely perfect:
- it cooks at 150C for the whole six hours. You really can leave it while you head down to the beach as there is no adjusting of cooking temperatures.
- no basting: into the oven and forget it for six hours. Concentrate instead on basting yourself with the factor 30+.
- it uses bottled capsicums. No reason why you couldn't use fresh, but sometimes, life is all about being easy.
- the chilli flakes soften in the oven to become a flavoursome addition, without any uncomfortable heat or spiciness.
- ditto for the fennel seeds: the lamb has lots of flavour but no obvious aniseed taste
- the recipe feeds a crowd: halve it if you have only a family to feed, and you will probably still have leftovers
- you can make it all again in winter and it will still be perfect

This is the first recipe from Delicious Dec/Jan issue that I have made. Melinda from Melbourne Larder and I are exploring Delicious this month, after our fun with Australian Gourmet Traveller last month. If you are keen on joining in the fun, drop either one of us a line. Or else feel free to play along at home.

Slow-cooked Lamb Shoulder With Capsicum and Olives

2 x 3kg lamb shoulders
1 garlic bulb
1/2 cup chopped rosemary
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbls olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
4 oranges roughly chopped
1 jar roasted red capsicum, cut into strips
2 cups pitted kalamata olives
2 tbls salted capers

Score the fat on the lamb shoulders in a criss cross pattern. Place garlic, rosemary, chilli, fennel and oil in a food processor and process to a coarse paste. (I added a little extra olive oil - about 1 tbl - at this point as I felt my paste was too dry and would not go far enough on the lamb). Spread the paste over the lamb, rubbing in well to work into the scoremarks. Cover and refrigerate for somewhere between 4 hours and overnight.

Preheat oven to 150C. Line a large baking tray with foil, leaving an overhang all around, then cover it with a double layer of baking paper, again leaving an overhang. Sit the lamb on the paper, then scatter over the orange, capsicum, olives and capers. Top with another double layer of paper and more foil. Fold all the overhanging edges of the paper in, then seal all the edges of the foil, so you have a package sitting in your baking tray that is locked pretty tight. Roast lamb for 6 hours or until falling off the bone. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest inside its parcel for 30 mins. Tear lamb into chunks and toss with oranges mixture on a platter. Scatter with parsley if you really want to impress.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms

Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms was the retro-feeling pick second pick for Barefoot Bloggers last month (yes I'm late). When I saw the choice, I felt like I should whip out a little frilly apron, pop some Dean Martin on the i-pod and serve up some pickled onions on jatz first. In my mind's eye, I can picture a 1960s cookbook display of assorted hors d'oeuvres, with little versions of these babies sitting happily in between the stuffed olives and the devilled eggs. And, as a little nibble they would be great.

My big mistake was planning to have these for dinner, and making them in large mushroom caps (in my defence, large mushroom caps is what the recipe calls for). They are really very filling and very rich, and probably too much for a normal dinner. However as a bite-sized nibble at a cocktail party they would be great, and if I make them again, that is what I would be doing with them. The recipe involves removing sausage meat from its casing (easily done with a pair of scissors), browning it off, then adding some green onions, garlic and breadcrumbs. Then, because this is a Barefoot recipe where flavour is never troubled by calorie count, you swirl in some mascarpone, before adding a final touch of parmesan to the mix. The mix is then stuffed into mushrooms and sent off to the oven to bake until the top is brown and crisp and the mushroom beneath is cooked. Easy peasy and very tasty, just a bit much for dinner.

Thanks to Michelle of Welcome to the Club for her choice.

from Ina Garten on The Food Network

16 extra-large white mushrooms (or 32 button mushroom caps)
5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala wine or medium sherry
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings
6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
2 garlic cloves minced
2/3 cup panko crumbs
5 ounces mascarpone cheese, preferably from Italy
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop them finely. Set aside. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and Marsala. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, crumbling it with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook the sausage for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's completely browned. Add the chopped mushroom stems and cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the scallions and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the panko crumbs, stirring to combine evenly with all the other ingredients. Finally, swirl in the mascarpone and continue cooking until the mascarpone has melted and made the sausage mixture creamy. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste, Cool slightly.
Fill each mushroom generously with the sausage mixture. Arrange the mushrooms in a baking dish large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a snug single layer. Bake until the stuffing for 50 minutes, until the stuffing is browned and crusty.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Coleslaw and Chicken and Lime Leaf Fritters

"Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever." ~Mark Twain

So before my shortcomings become any shorter, indulge me while I catch up on some homework. I have two extra dishes from the December Gourmet Traveller to post about. The first is the King Cole coleslaw that I made on Christmas Day. I have a bit of a thing for coleslaw: something about the crunchiness, the creamy dressing, the slightly sour flavour of cabbage offset by other ingredients. When I saw the King Cole coleslaw in Gourmet Traveller, it seemed a perfect salad for Christmas lunch - excellent seasonal colours, all in reds and white, and something that could be prepared ahead to take the pressure off Christmas Day. While the results were good, (it was a tasty coleslaw, and I liked the inclusion of the radish and the hazelnuts), it was not significantly better than other coleslaw I have made. In fact the best bit for me was the leftovers: I had a small bowl of coleslaw for dinner on both Xmas night and Boxing night - which were more than satisfying after days spent feasting.
The final dish I made from Gourmet Traveller Dec 09 was the chicken and lime leaf fritters. This recipe comes from a restaurant called Cookie in Melbourne and was included in the magazine section where readers are able to request chefs' recipes. I always love this section as the unwritten subtext is that these recipes must be really, really, really good for someone to go to the trouble of writing to Gourmet Traveller to ask them to get the recipes. I did however make some changes to the recipe. Deep frying always leaves me with battle scars, so I decided instead to bake the fritters (which must make them balls not fritters). I also did not have any rice flour, but I did have some potato flour that I used instead, and it formed a nice thin crust on the outside of the balls. Instead of frying, I sprayed them with olive oil spray and put them into a 170C oven for 35 mins until they were golden brown and cooked through. These had a great Thai-style flavour, were really more-ish and made a perfect nibble for New Year's Eve. I am confident that they will be turning up around here again soon.

My focus on Gourmet Traveller Dec 09 came from a challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder that we called "We Made It". Sick of under-utlising our food magazines, we decided to try to focus on one and see how much we could cook from it. I loved doing this because it forced me to explore the magazine in depth and prodded me towards recipes I may never have otherwise attempted. Looking back over the month, my favourites were:

January's focus will be on the Dec/Jan edition of Delicious, so if you are cooking from Delicious feel free to join in. Now excuse me while I go attend to my shortcomings.

King Cole
Serves 8
½ small white cabbage (about 1kg), shredded
1 radicchio, shredded
8 radishes, thinly sliced
½ Spanish onion, thinly sliced
½ cup each torn dill and parsley (loosely packed)
35 gm (¼ cup) hazelnuts, roasted, skins rubbed, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)
Sherry dressing
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1½ tbsp sherry vinegar
3 egg yolks
375 ml (1½ cups) olive oil
20 ml dry sherry, or to taste

Combine cabbage, radicchio and radish in a bowl of iced water, stand until crisp (5-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, for sherry dressing, process garlic, vinegar and yolks in a food processor until combined. With motor running, add oil in a thin steady stream until thick and emulsified, stir through sherry, season to taste.

Drain cabbage mixture, dry in a salad spinner, add to a bowl with onion. Add sherry dressing, toss to combine, transfer to a serving bowl, scatter with herbs, nuts and seeds.

Chicken and Lime Leaf Fritters
Serves 6
For deep-frying: vegetable oil
For dusting: rice flour
500 gm minced chicken
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
1 cup (loosely packed) coriander, finely chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
80 ml (1/3 cup) fish sauce
80 ml (1/3 cup) lime juice
To serve:
thinly sliced cucumber, long red chilli and lime wedges

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or deep-sided frying pan to 180C. Place rice flour in a bowl, set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well (mixture will be quite wet). Divide mixture into even walnut-sized balls, dust with rice flour. Then either deep-fry in batches, turning occasionally, until golden and cooked through (2-4 minutes; be careful as hot oil may spit) OR spay with olive oil and bake at 170C for 35mins. Drain on absorbent paper, season to taste with sea salt flakes and serve with cucumber, red chilli and lime wedges.